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How to Become Empowered and Actualize Your Possibilities

How to Become Empowered and Actualize Your Possibilities

The discovery of the self is a lifelong process which takes place between two worlds; internal and external. At first, finding your moral and ethical place in the world—or even your high school—can be overwhelming, being so focused on your internal, adolescent self. But as you absorb and experience new things, your cognitive functions become more cosmopolitan, allowing you to perceive the context of your bubble of reality within The Big Picture. This might make you feel like an insignificant stepper in the “Grand March” of history, but distinguishing the details of your individual identity (i.e. unique circumstances, emotional associations, semantic idiosyncrasies) is the first step to facing life with more confidence and optimism, becoming more spontaneous and ambitious, while actualizing your possibilities.

Do Not Compare Yourself to Others

“Our lives look a lot more interesting when they’re filtered through the sexy Facebook interface. We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery.” -Jonathan Franzen

Remember this: Every human being is equal and unique, born into varying circumstances, locations, and times. Facebook—and the rest of social media—is a crude, passive tool for forming and maintaining social connections; while it is handy for travelers and “a more connected world,” developing an online identity can disfigure your real one—becoming more narcissistic, self-critical, or envious. It is unfair to compare your internal life with the “highlight reel” on someone else’s timeline, and you never know what is hidden beneath their surface.

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Respect Your (Real) Friendships

“Even the smallest person can change the course of history.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Between Tweeting like a celebrity and scanning Netflix in obscurity, your friends will always remind you that your life really does matter—if it doesn’t to you, it does to them. In a way, your friends see you more clearly than you can ever see yourself: have fun, be honest and sympathetic, and express yourself without fear of judgment. Friendship is an ancient and legendary bond: without it, you can forget how incredible, quirky, and valuable your life is.

Learn from the Past, Plan for the Future, but Live in the Present

“You shouldn’t chase after the past or place expectations on the future. What is past is left behind. The future is as yet unreached. Whatever quality is present you clearly see right there, right there.” -Buddha

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While you ruminate on the past or the future, remember that each time you recall a memory, you recreate it: the more you return to certain memories, the more distorted they may be. Regret often exaggerates the magnitude of past mistakes and the fear of future ones. This may prove that emotional stress can cloud your working memory—which strongly correlates to your IQ—and cause your worldview to become pessimistic and vague. You can escape the pressures of another time by accepting and immersing yourself in the present, no matter where you are.

Be Secure Enough to Change

“Maybe the most under-appreciated thing about Steve [Jobs] was that he had the courage to change his mind.” -Tim Cook, Apple CEO

As you stumble onward in your journey, you will find that life is full of contradiction and paradox—and so are you. Though your brain tends to dislike the dissonance produced by conflicting ideas, many of our choices are the lesser of two (or more) evils. No one is perfect, and the heroes among us make the best of their mistakes by learning from them without feeling personally attacked or being hypersensitive to criticism.

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Trust Your Judgment, Act Accordingly

“Centuries of centuries and only in the present do things happen; countless men in the air, on the face of the earth and the sea, and all that really is happening is happening to me…” -Jorge Luis Borges

The Big Picture is impossibly grand and labyrinthine, but if you trust your instincts, your morals, and your experience to guide you, you will find yourself in the right place. The Galileos and Jobses of our time have shown us that if there is no “right way” to do anything. Nothing is true; everything is permitted. And the time is now. One definitive act is much louder (and much rarer) than a thousand vague words.

Links to previous Lifehack articles:
In Be Secure Enough to Change: “the dissonance produced by conflicting ideas

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In Respect Your (Real) Friendships: “ancient and legendary bond

Featured photo credit:  Raised arms man in the summit of mountain via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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